Vro room Veyron
It’s super sleek, costs $2.7 million and is the world’s fastest production car. It will take your breath away, writes PAUL GOVER Pictures: DAVID CA
NONE of the numbers gives you the remotest idea of what it is like to drive a Bugatti Veyron. The Veyron costs $2.7 million. It has a top of 408km/h and will hit 100km/h in 2.5 seconds, thanks to a quad-turbo W16 engine with 736kW.
Those numbers are enough to take your breath away, or leave you giggling about the outrageous stupidity of a car that is so extreme in every way yet is still designed primarily to get two people from here to there.
But put your foot flat to the floor in the Veyron, feel the world tilt on its axis and your arms stretch in their sockets as you hang on to the wheel, and you begin to understand what the Bugatti is all about.
It was designed from day one to be the fastest car. And the best.
No expense has been spared, nothing left undone, from the aluminium switches to the 10 radiators to cool the 8.0-litre engine and the car’s sevenspeed DSG gearbox and all-wheeldrive system.
And there are underbody aerodynamics, a computer-controlled suspension system, multi-mode transmission, and on and on.
Books have been written about the Veyron because there is so much to the car, but it all becomes background static when the Bugatti is sitting in the pitlane at the Sandown Park racing circuit and you are one of two Australians who have been accepted to drive. That is when your focus narrows to the single pinpoint called Veyron.
There are celebrities here, training in their cute little Fiat 500s for their race at the Australian Grand Prix, but they fade to black in the colourful glare of the Veyron.
People gawk, point and gasp, then the Bugatti rolls down the pitlane and on to the track, with former F1 driver Pierre-Henri Raphanel at the wheel for a systems’ check.
When he returns, hammering out of the last corner with the Veyron at full boost, there is a moment of silence before the chattering starts again.
‘‘When you’re standing on the fence and it goes past it’s like a sonic boom,’’ champion cyclist Phil Anderson says.
Then three celebrity victims are strapped into the passenger seat for a couple of hot laps. Each one takes some time to emerge, calming themselves after the pummeling from a car easily topping 260km/h down the Sandown straights.
Tennis player Mark Philippoussis, who has owned a few fast cars, says: ‘‘It’s amazing to think what man can make. How it doesn’t fly off the road, I don’t know. That’s just ridiculous.’’
Then it’s my turn behind the wheel.
This car is so fast and so expensive it demands respect. Even so, it is idling smoothly and the controls are like every other car. It all looks and feels so . . . normal.
But the Bugatti is not remotely normal, which Raphanel emphasises as he drops into the passenger seat.
‘‘You must get to know this car. You cannot rush. So just take it easy,’’ he says.
And so I slide the gear lever into
full auto and tickle the throttle. There is no hesitation, no fuss and no drama as we roll forward at a gentle 40km/h. This is as easy as handling a Camry. We are soon up to 110km/h and the transmission has slurred to seventh gear without giving a single indication of a gear change. No jerk, no change in throttle or revs, just a seamless slide to cruising speed.
Now there is time to look at and feel the car— to see the regulation analogue instruments, feel the meaty leatherwrapped wheel, relax a little into the race-shape leather bucks, appreciate airconditioning coping easily with a 34C Melbourne day.
‘‘Now, put your foot down,’’ Raphanel says.
I do. And the Veyron erupts. Not in a raw, coarse way, but with the emphatic efficiency of a jet fighter. The engine roars, the turbos pump, the gearbox kicks back to second and we are transported into another world. The surge of acceleration is stronger than anything I have felt short of the Renault F1 car I drove last year, and even better than a V8 Supercar.
It’s only a couple of seconds before the speedometer is twisting past 140mph (225km/h).
‘‘Please, ease off now. This is not a racing car and the road is very bumpy. It is too rough to really push the brakes,’’ Raphanel says.
So we glide into the braking space at the top of the back straight, defeat a couple of curves with a few wrist twists, then do the zap-bang acceleration thing again.
This time the speedo goes beyond 160mph (257km/h) with ease, but I still cannot slow the action in my head enough to understand what is really happening.
So we go for a standing start. Nothing dramatic, apart from select- ing the sport setting for the DSG gearbox. I floor the throttle . . . and it feels as if the front wheels are lifting off the ground.
This is unbelievable stuff for a super-luxury coupe that weighs more than 1800kg.
There is a brief pause when a bump unloads one wheel and the traction control intervenes, but otherwise it’s a catapult takeoff.
ONE second you are sitting here, the next you are gone. My five laps are over far too soon. I cannot say much about the handling, because the track was too rough and suspension too cushy to really push, but the performance is staggering.
What else can I remember? The beautifully responsive steering, the seamless action of the gearbox, the way the engine lights up even on light throttle and the incredible torque and power of a motor designed and developed to push the Veyron beyond 200mph (320km/h).
Oh, and seats with basic manual control. Just a pull-and-slide lever without a single electric motor.
The Veyron is so fast it makes a V8 Supercar seem tame.
There is a kink on the back straight at Sandown that is hardly there in a racing Commodore, but it becomes a real corner in the Veyron.
Yet the car also has the final finishing you find in a Rolls-Royce Phantom, as you would expect when the price is $2.7 million.
It is hard to put the Veyron experience into words, but one spectator at Sandown does it well enough as I try to talk him through the drive.
‘‘It’s all that, and a bag of chips, then?’’ he asks. Exactly.